Sunday, 5 February 2017

Excellent chain restaurants for vegetarians and omnivores in the UK


Central London is pretty pricey. I often go out after work to either gigs or museums and need a bite to eat that I can afford that isn't a sandwich (I get hangry). There is so much choice and much of it is more than I want to spend or isn't very good and sometimes I don't have time to research and don't always want to chance it. Or there are places that are too cool and you can't book them and you have to queue for about an hour. Or sometimes I don't want the standard veggie option of mushroom risotto, halloumi burger or goats cheese tart and I don't want to drag my omnivorous friends to a vegetarian restaurant.

People can look down on chain restaurants, bunch them all together as cheap, poor quality, unhealthy, unimaginative, childish, mainstream, corporate. It does irritate me that there are about five Prets in the vicinity of my office and I've seen so many independent places close (though I do quite like an occasional Pret). And I hate that chains can afford to proliferate and push out small businesses who can't afford skyrocketing rents and it all becomes a circle of going to chains because that is all there is. 

That said, often businesses have expanded into chains because they are great. Affordable, delicious and consistent. They have a brand that you like and you trust that you'll get the same good food, no matter where you are. They are convenient when you just need dinner and you need it now and you don't want to research, you just want to know what you're getting.

I have three favourite chains that I can count on when I'm in that kind of mood. These are all places that serve meat but have excellent vegetarian options.


Nandos

Nandos is a proper world wide chain and I have a real soft spot for it as it's where Stu took me on our very first date <3 It was started by a Portugese guy called Fernando in South Africa and is a peri peri chicken restaurant but has so many veggie options that my friends and I kind of think of it as a vegetarian restaurant with a chicken theme. 

You choose your food, your heat (hot!), your sides. Grab your bottomless soft drink and some bottles of delicious peri peri sauce to dip your fries in. Peri peri sauce is so good. Particularly the garlic version and the wild herb version. If you have room, they have tasty little natas, custard tarts. Yum. And you order and pay at the counter so there is no awkward bill splitting if you are with a group. Massive pro.


Also, the chicken logo is amazing. I am aware it is a symbol of Portugal....I got excited that my parents had two Nando's chickens on top of the telly and my Granny was very unimpressed. "What do you mean, Nando's chickens!? That's a symbol of Portugal!"


Wahaca

Wahaca is a UK chain of Mexican food restaurants started by Thomasina Miers which I like for many reasons. First and foremost, I find the food fresh, light and delicious. It's like Mexican tapas, you can order lots of different and delicious bites. Secondly, there are plenty of options for vegetarians (currently not great for vegans though) and ingredients are thoughtfully sourced. And finally, the restaurants are so brightly coloured and lovely to be in.


Busaba Eathai

Busaba is another UK chain, this time Thai food. The flavours here are seriously good. Proper spicy goodness. The decor is dark and classy, with big communal tables. I've waited for a table before (I'm bad at booking tables) but it's worth waiting up to 20 minutes. Because I'm in love with their chili fried cashews. I crave those cashews. Mmmmmmmm. There's only a couple of veggie options but they are decent. Also, cashews!



So these are my trusty places to go if I don't want to think about it. And when I do think about it. All three are delicious, affordable (you can have a meal for £10-15 per person without alcohol), great for groups and I can usually find one wherever I am.

What are your favourite chain restaurants?


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